By Dave Vest ATLANTA – The Coyotes will put their four-game winning streak on the line today when they play the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena. The puck drops at 2 p.m. (Arizona time).
The game will be played less than 24 hours after Phoenix blanked Carolina, 4-0, on Saturday night at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. Back-to-back games have not been problematic for the Coyotes this season. Phoenix will enter the game with a 12-5-2 record in the 19 games they've played in back-to-back situations.
With 14 games to play, Phoenix (41-22-5) is in fourth place in the Western Conference standings with 87 points, two more than fifth-place Los Angeles, which hosts Nashville on Sunday.
Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera will give Ilya Bryzgalov a rest and make his first start since Feb. 5 at Chicago. LaBarbera is 5-4-1 this season with a 2.23 goals-against average.
The Coyotes have 25 players on the roster. That means competition for playing time has intensified and the results have been good. Forward Taylor Pyatt, for instance, has notched two points and has been plus-5 in three games since being a healthy scratch on March 4.
The Thrashers (28-29-10) have lost five consecutive games and are fading from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Opponents have outscored the Thrashers 19-6 during their losing streak.
Atlanta will enter the game in 11th place, six points behind eighth-place Boston.
Thrashers defenseman Chris Chelios, who at age 48 is the oldest player in the NHL, has averaged 14 minutes of ice time in his first two games with Atlanta.
"It's a tight race," Chelios told reporters. "The best thing I can do for this team is to play well defensively and hopefully give these guys a little composure and it rubs off. You always learn from watching, at least that's what I did. I hope I can contribute in some way, and the best thing I can do is play solid defensively."
Coyotes right wing Lee Stempniak has notched five goals and one assist in his first four games since joining Phoenix via a trade with Toronto.
Thrashers left wing Clarke MacArthur has scored two goals in six games since coming to Atlanta in a trade with Buffalo.
The Coyotes have won four of the five games they have played in Atlanta since the Thrashers joined the NHL in 1999. Phoenix's only loss in Atlanta came on Nov. 23, 2003.
Coyotes defenseman Mathieu Schneider will make his debut today. Schneider was acquired from Vancouver in a trade on March 3, but he has yet to play for Phoenix because he has been nursing a knee injury.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan again will try to snap a goal-scoring drought. Doan has not scored a goal since Jan. 31 - a span of 12 games.
"I'm super excited to be back. This is what I've been working for this whole year is to somehow prove myself and get a chance to get back in the lineup."